JOHANNESBURG – Millions of South Africans said emotional farewell to anti-apartheid icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela on Saturday during his official funeral, with supporters fiercely defending his complex legacy.
Thousands of mourners filled a 40,000-seat stadium to celebrate the powerful figure who will be buried as a national hero, after a lively debate about how he should be remembered after his death on April 2 at 81.
Often called the "Mother of the Nation" and "Mama Winnie" Madikizela-Mandela fought to keep the struggle against apartheid South Africa in the international spotlight while her husband, Nelson Mandela, was imprisoned.
"Long before it was fashionable to ask for the release of Nelson Mandela from Robben Island, it was my mother who kept his memory alive," said eldest daughter Zenani Mandela-Dlamini, as the audience erupted in cheers.
Many South Africans have risen to the memory of Madikizela-Mandela against critics who characterized her as a problematic figure involved in political violence after she returned from years of exile in a rural town.
Condescensions from around the world have come in memory of one of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, who attended the funeral, said Friday that Madikizela-Mandela was responsible for making the anti-apartheid movement "a global struggle" .
"She never stopped". fight. She never stopped serving, "she told reporters," She never left the belly of the beast. "
Many who commemorate Madikizela-Mandela have recognized her as a political force in their own right.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called it an "international symbol of resistance" whose extraordinary life had an impact on millions of people around the world.
"In the apartheid of South Africa, the combination of patriarchy and racism meant that black women faced huge obstacles from the cradle to the grave, which makes his own achievements more exceptional, "he said Friday at a memorial in New York, not to mention Nelson Mandela at all.
The young Madikizela-Mandela grew up in what She is now the province of the Eastern Cape and arrived in Johannesburg as the city's first black social worker, and soon after met the African National Congress activist, Mandela, and the couple. He married in 1958, forming one of the unions with the most history of the century.
After imprisoning Mandela, Madikizela-Mandela embraced his own leadership in the struggle for freedom with steel determination and great personal sacrifice.
For years, the security forces of the apartheid state routinely harassed her, imprisoned her and tortured her. In 1977, she was banished to a remote city.
It was a disaster. When Madikizela-Mandela returned from exile, she became involved with a group of young people known as the Mandela United Football Club, who were widely accused of violence in Soweto.
They were accused of disappearances and murders of at least 18 children and the youth and leader of the group were convicted of killing a 14-year-old boy, nicknamed "Stompie", accused of being a police informant.
In 1991, a court found Madikizela-Mandela guilty of kidnapping and kidnapping the child. assault and sentenced her to six years in prison. He appealed and was found guilty of being an accessory, and the sentence was reduced to a fine and a suspended prison sentence. Madikizela-Mandela denied knowledge of any murder.
Mandela divorced her in 1996, claiming infidelity and saying that after his release from prison, his wife made him "the loneliest man."
Although she fought fiercely for democracy, Madikizela-Mandela failed in a political career after the first free elections in 1994. Mandela dismissed her as one of her vice ministers and her periods as a legislator, since she held until her death, were mediocre .
Supporters of the ANC have defended it out loud.
"He gave everything he had," said Deputy Secretary General Jessie Duarte. "For those of you whose hearts are implacable, sit down and shut up, this is our hero, this is our heroine."
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